Purisima Creek Trail – a culvert gone bad


Trail washout on Purisima Creek Trail. About halfway point.

When a culvert is blocked on a rainy day, watch out! Roads and bridges don’t stand a chance against rushing waters. Just check out the damage on Purisima Creek Trail.

I’ve been riding this “trail” since 1980, so I have some knowledge of its history, its good times and bad. This was a well used logging road up until the late 1970s. The canyon has been logged many times.

The road was better maintained then than it ever has been since falling into government hands. It all comes down to money. The logging companies had a vested interest in keeping the road serviceable. Today, not so much. It is, after all, a trail now.

But on with the ride. I left early to avoid the heat, although it wasn’t nearly as hot today as Saturday. On the ride up Kings Mountain Road, I joined participants in the Sequoia Century. Yesterday’s baking heat had hardly dissipated from the road, despite the fog that moved in overnight. I noticed temps climb into the upper 60s from the cooler valley.

After a short ride north on Skyline it was time for a left turn onto Purisima Creek Trail, where I saw a parked hydraulic excavator, and a sign next to it saying a bridge was out.

The first half-mile of steep descending had the usual layer of unpleasant rock ballast to hinder the ride. Heavy use, especially from riding in the wet, hasn’t done the trail any favors. At least I can say I took this road when it offered unspeakable pleasure — smooth and fast with a layer of redwood needles — that’s how I like my dirt roads.

Before the area of devastation, I came upon a couple of roadies making good time up the steep grade (17% in places). It’s nice to see the Jobst Rider creed hasn’t entirely disappeared.

At the last sweeping bend that marks the end of the steep stuff, I came across the blocked culvert. It’s so sad to see.

Farther down on the usually smooth flat section I noticed quite a bit of rutting. It wasn’t all that wet this winter, so it’s hard to fathom a cause.

Back on pavement I continued on Purisima Creek Road (53 F) through a wide valley marked by the occasional ranch house. One rancher has a pumpjack running. Water or oil? Next time I’ll stop and ask. He lives near a rusting oil well that sits forlornly on a hill overlooking the road. This is part of the Purisima Formation and Half Moon Bay oil field, which has yielded 58,000 barrels over 100 years.

On Hwy 1, heading south, I picked up a cavalcade of pedalers on their way from San Francisco to Los Angeles, raising money for AIDS research.

I decided to check out Lobitos Creek Cutoff as an alternate route to Tunitas Creek Road. It has a little extra gratuitous climbing, and the scenery is nothing appealing, but it offers variety.

Tunitas Creek Road gave me a chance to warm up and leave the fog-shrouded coast behind. Quite a few riders joined me and I cursed my bike as each one passed by. “If only I had bought a Trek, a Specialized, a Klein…”

I sped back down Kings Mountain Road and headed home on Foothill Boulevard to call it a day.

big oil

A little bit of extra income from Big Oil at the ranch on Purisima Creek Road?

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